- Ben Chilwell scores winner with third goal in as many games
- Brentford hit the woodwork three times and pile on late pressure
- Edouard Mendy produces succession of brilliant saves to earn Chelsea win
As Edouard Mendy produced the latest in his series of quite remarkable saves, Thomas Frank turned to the home crowd, stretched out his arms and widened his eyes in disbelief. The Brentford head coach was expressing the same emotions that his supporters were feeling: incredulity at how the ball had not entered the Chelsea net, how they had not found a way to beat the brilliant Mendy.
“It was hell on earth,” was Ben Chilwell’s description of the Brentford siege, which neatly summarised the pain that Chelsea were forced to endure here. In the final moments of the game it was relentless for their defenders, as if the heavens had opened and it had started to rain footballs on their heads.
They could not get out, they could not clear and for a while it looked as if they could hardly even breathe. It was difficult to recal Thomas Tuchel’s side ever appearing more rattled or out of control a Brentford attacked with everything they had, over and over again, in pursuit of an equaliser they emphatically deserved.
If it were not for Mendy’s individual excellence, Brentford might well have claimed another three points in this wonderfully watchable Premier League journey they are taking. Instead, they somehow left with none. Mendy used his legs, his chest, his arms and even his face to keep Frank’s side at bay, and to keep Chelsea at the top of the Premier League table.
“We were very strong for 70 minutes and very lucky for 20 minutes,” said Tuchel, whose players have conceded only three goals in eight league matches. “We escaped with the three points thanks to Edouard. It was like a cup game at the end.”
There are days in a goalkeeper’s life when the posts must seem miniscule and they must feel like giants. No matter how much power Brentford put into their shots, or how creatively they forged their chances, Mendy absorbed it all. Ivan Toney, Saman Ghoddos, Pontus Jansson and Christian Norgaard all brought the very best out of the Senegal international, who fell to the ground in triumph when the whistle finally brought an end to Chelsea’s suffering.
“In the last 20 minutes we truly dominated the European champions,” said Frank. “Throughout the game we only allowed them to have five shots. That is crazy. That is unheard of. There should be only one winner in that game, and that is us. Mendy was absolutely world class.”
It was a measure of Mendy’s performance that he snatched the headlines away from Chilwell, whose resurgence continued here with another goal. That makes three in three consecutive matches for the left wing-back, who not so long ago was the forgotten man of both his club and his country.
Unused by England in the summer and then sidelined by Chelsea, there must have been moments in recent months when Chilwell questioned his own worth and perhaps even doubted his own ability. There is only one thing a footballer can do in such situations, and that is to seize his opportunity when it finally arrives. Chilwell has done so to great effect, and his winning strike here was another reminder of his class.
The best that can be said of his goal was that it would even have beaten Mendy. Latching onto a bouncing ball which had only been half-cleared, the 24-year-old turned side-on and lashed his finish high into the top corner. “You have your ups and downs,” Chilwell said. “The important thing is to train hard and, when you get your chance, take it.”
Before this meeting, their first in the league with Chelsea since 1947, Brentford had trailed for just 25 minutes of the campaign, the lowest total in the division. Frank’s side do not give much away and, as they showed in their thrilling draw with Liverpool last month, they do not give up either.
Even when Chelsea took the lead through Chilwell, having almost scored through Mateo Kovacic and Timo Werner a few minutes earlier, there was always threat at the other end. Bryan Mbeumo had the best of the chances until the late bombardment, striking Mendy’s post in both halves when he perhaps should have been more clinical.
Chilwell’s opener did not immediately change the dynamic, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek continuing to control the midfield in impressive fashion for the visitors, but Brentford soon tightened their grip. Corners, free-kicks and throw-ins were launched towards the box, creating havoc for Chelsea’s defenders.
Amid it all, only Mendy remained calm. First he palmed away Toney’s effort, then he smothered Ghoddos when it seemed certain the Brentford forward would score. Jansson was the next to be denied, this time by Mendy’s face, before Norgaard’s acrobatic effort was dramatically tipped over the bar.
“Someone explain why he is not nominated for the Ballon d’Or,” tweeted the absent Antonio Rudiger. It was a fair question to ask after a goalkeeping performance that must surely rank as one of the Premier League’s finest in recent years.
As it happened
FT: Brentford 0 Chelsea 1
That will feel like a huge win for Chelsea – not dissimilar to that game they won at Blackburn in Mourinho’s first title-winning season when they celebrated vociferously on the pitch after the whistle.
The three points send them top, but Brentford will curse their luck. They hit the woodwork three times and Mendy made some other good saves. They are brilliant at winning second balls and keeping you under pressure.
Good defending from Sarr but Brentford have another long throw. They keep it alive but it won’t drop for someone to shoot and Kante gets his toe to it.
It’s ANOTHER Mendy save! Norgaard with a brilliant overhead kick from six yards out or so and the Chelsea ‘keeper tips it on to the bar. Raya is up for the corner, which Chelsea deal with but Brentford have another shot at a long throw. Reece James down injured. One more delivery from Chelsea to deal with.
Rico Henry’s cross is volleyed away by Sarr. The Chelsea win a throw and can kill some more time. That injury to Mendy has killed Brentford’s momentum. Two minutes to go.
Four minutes of added time
For the first time in what seems like forever though, the ball is in the Brentford half and Chelsea have a throw.
Another looped ball sent into the Chelsea penalty area, but this time they get a foul and gives Tuchel’s team a chance to squeeze up the pitch. Brentford have had 10 shots to Chelsea’s 1 in this second half.
Brentford are battering Chelsea, it’s chance after chance at the moment. Mendy’s save was actually made with his face, that is really brave goalkeeping. The goalkeeper is down receiving some treatment which will waste a few minutes.
Chelsea look out of gas and ideas now, this is just a case of running the clock down and hanging on. Another Jorgensen delivery is coming into the box and it bounces beyond everyone. The ball is played back in to the back post and Brentford win the knock down, but it’s a brilliant stop from Mendy to deny Jansson who got plenty behind his near-post shot. Starfish save from the goalkeeper.
HOW have Brentford not scored there?! Sarr with a big mistake getting caught under a diagonal, but Mendy spreads himself to save from Ghoodos at a tight angle and then Chalobah clears the follow up off the line. Brentford are still pouring forward!
Werner looked like he was through on goal but Raya comes out to claim. Brentford have been excellent since the hour mark, Frank has influenced the game with his changes. They have around 10 minutes to find the goal their second-half display deserves.
Brentford have another long throw deep in Chelsea territory, Havertz’s clearing header was poor and Forss’ shot from the edge of the area was blocked. Brentford are all over Chelsea and they have another throw in near the corner flag which is going into the box. Ghoddos scuffed his shot and Chelsea breathe again.
Chalobah got himself caught under the ball and Toney looked like was going to get away from him, but the flag saved the day for Chelsea again. The defender dragged Toney back too, so it could have been a penalty. Havertz has been brought on for Lukaku.
Brentford have hit the post again! It was an intricate piece of football around the edge of the box with the ball flicked through to Mbuemo but he slightly dragged his left foot shot and it struck the foot of the near post. Brentford will feel they deserve a goal for their last 10 minutes of football. Chelsea look rattled.
Brentford have a throw-in deep in Chelsea territory and are making a change: Ghoddos replaces Canos.
Brilliant set-piece from Brentford as Pinnock wins the near post flick on but Toney’s swivelled volley into the turf was straight at Mendy and he tips over. Brentford then provide another good delivery and Kante did well not to handle the ball. Chelsea coming up some real pressure now!
Lukaku will be grateful to see the flag go up for offside because after Werner’s cross on the swivel was blocked he fired wide from close range when he looked certain to score. Then Mbuemo runs past Chalobah but Sarr covers across well to get there before Toney.
Good move from Brentford but why did Toney not pull the trigger?! The ball came back to him at the edge of the box but after a decent first touch he tried a backheel rather than putting his laces through it.
Toney is just starting to mess Chalobah around now, and he draws a foul out of him on halfway. Chilwell does brilliantly to lead the Chelsea charge but the pass for Lukaku comes too late and the flag goes up for offside. Striker Forss replaces Onyeka for Brentford, while Tuchel has hooked Kovacic for Mason Mount.
Crucial interception from Jorgensen after Kante spun his man in midfield and looked to have slipped a through ball into Werner’s path. Ghoddos is about to be introduced from the bench by Thomas Frank.
Much better from Brentford in these last few minutes, and Toney wants a foul given against Chalobah for clipping his heels as he tried to get on the end of a ball in behind. It did look clumsy from the Chelsea defender. Much to the annoyance of the Brentford fans, a foul is then given against Pinnock for tripping Loftus-Cheek.
The free-kick glances off Chalobah’s head and Brentford have a corner. From the second phase, Lukaku wins a crucial header at the back post. There is some real cut and thrust to the contest now, and Onyeka goes down wanting a foul against Sarr but the Chelsea man got a foot to the ball.
Chelsea’s three centre backs really have nullified Brentford’s two strikers. Sarr misjudges a long ball for the first time though but Chalobah gets Chelsea out of a spot of bother with a good challenge. That small mistake has roused the Brentford fans though, and then Toney and Chalobah have a wrestle for the ball and the increases the decibel levels. Brentford free-kick 40 yards out or so.
Chelsea doing a good job of getting around Toney and winning second balls. Kovacic tries to slip a pass down the inside for Chilwell to run onto but he gets it wrong. Some more quality with the final pass will see Chelsea get their second goal here.
Chelsea look to have a grip of the game. Chilwell drives in a central position and feeds Lukaku, but Pinnock gets a foot to his low cross which was in Werner’s direction. Then Raya comes and takes a chipped ball stood up in Kante’s direction.
Chelsea straight on the front foot in the second half and they have a corner through Werner’s industry. Chilwell with a good delivery but Toney clears before Kovacic shoots well over from distance. A silly attempt from the midfielder.
Tuchel’s team have been solid rather than spectacular. The tricky thing for Brentford is that has they push numbers forward in search of the equaliser, Chelsea can add creativity to their team with Mount and Havertz options. They could made Chelsea more fluent as an attacking force.
HT: Brentford 0 Chelsea 1
Chelsea deal with the delivery and they have their noses in front at halfway.
Not much in the game for 45 minutes despite plenty of Chelsea possession, but that Chilwell hit has given Tuchel’s team the lead. Brentford looked most dangerous from set-pieces with Mbuemo hitting the post. Now Brentford have a free kick wide right in the dying seconds of the half.
GOOOOAAAALLL! Chilwell has another goal
What a clean strike to break the deadlock. Azplicueta clipped a cross in first time and Lukaku occupies three defenders and makes a nuisance of himself. It means there is space for Chilwell around the penalty spot as the ball bounces free, and he cuts across it perfectly to send the shot past Raya.
Kovavic had time on the ball with Chilwell, Lukaku and Werner making runs ahead of him but the pass was horribly mis-hit. Then Lukaku tired to dink a pass to Werner when he could have tried his luck but gets it all wrong. Rather sums up Chelsea in the final third.
Chelsea’s back three have defended the long balls towards Toney well, but Brentford have also looked solid in their shape and have soaked up a lot of Chelsea possession. Brentford launch a long throw into the box and they win a corner, but it is straight down Mendy’s throat.
Brentford creaking after Kovacic picks out Werner with a delightful scooped pass but the ball did not run for Lukaku near the six-yard box and they hammer clear. Better from Chelsea, more variation but Werner lacks conviction in the final shot or pass.
Chelsea’s best chance of the game: Chilwell gets forward into a high starting position and wins a header, Lukaku holds of his man and it runs for Werner at the edge of the box but he skies his side-foot shot high and wide. Should have hit the target from that position.
Werner flagged for coming back from an offside position, Chelsea struggling to create much. Not a huge surprise give Azpilicueta and Chilwell are the wing-backs with Kante, Kovacic and Loftus-Cheek in midfield. Chalobah tries to fizz a through ball into the right channel for Werner but Raya reads it.
“Champions of Europe, you’ll ever sign that” sing the Chelsea fans, which does not quite cut the same way at Brentford as at Spurs and Arsenal.
Brentford work a good position in the box after Loftus-Cheek was caught on the ball, but Mbuemo’s cross is straight at Mendy. A better ball and Oneynka may have had a tap in.
Chelsea having lots of the ball in the Brentford half but their passing has not been very decisive. A burst with the ball at feet from Loftus-Cheek looks their most likely avenue to goal so far. Lukaku not receiving much service.
Brentford defend another set-piece well but Chelsea’s delivery has not been up to scratch so far. It’s another excellent but of pressure from Loftus-Cheek to nip in front and Kovacic wins a foul from the loose ball. Kovacic’s strike hits the wall and loops onto the roof of the net.
Brentford growing into the game. If they can get enough balls into the penalty area then they will cause Chelsea problems. Another good driving run from Loftus-Cheek in midfield and he wins a foul just past halfway. This is a well-matched contest.
Brentford have a corner and it’s going to be an inswinger from Jensen but Lukaku was there to meet it.
Then from the next phase Brentford win the header in the penalty area and Mbuemo’s strike into the turn hits the post! Chelsea break and Werner’s cross is flicked in by Lukaku but the flag is up for offside. An exciting minute of football. It was the right decision.
Chelsea dominating possession and much of their good play has involved Loftus-Cheek. They have another corner, but Brentford clear and counter through Mbuemo. He pushes the ball past Kovacic on the right wing and he brings him down cynically. Yellow card for the Chelsea man. Chalobah heads the delivery away.
Sharp work from Loftus-Cheek to counter press and win possession back in the Brentford half. Kante tries to dribble into the penalty area but his shot is blocked and then Chilwell wins a foul as he was running away from goal. Kovacic is going to whip it in, but there’s a change of plan and Lukaku shoots wide.
Onyeka is giving it a go with Bidstrup sat back down on the bench. Lukaku wins a 50:50 challenge to get Chelsea on the attack, but Brentford have bodies behind the ball and look organised. Azpilicueta’s cross is blocked and Chelsea have the throw in near the corner flag.
Worrying moments for Brentford with Onyeka down after a blow to the head. Receiving plenty of medical attention as he lies on his back on the turf. I doubt he will be able to continue and he probably shouldn’t. There we go, Brentford are going to have to make a sub: Bidstrup getting stripped.
Chelsea getting a strangle hold of the game but Brentford defend their penalty box stoutly. Lukaku is trying to receive the ball into feet and find runners with first time lay offs. Toney does well to get back and hold the ball up.
Sharp start from Loftus-Cheek, winning a foul in midfield. That ability to carry the ball offers Chelsea something a bit different. Kante is moving quite high into the right half-space to try and support Werner and Lukaku. Good tempo to the game so far.
Decent start from Chelsea, Werner driving into the box down the right and winning a corner. Raya claims and he finds Mbuemo with a long pass out of his hands, and Brentford settle on the ball. Canos runs at Chilwell and then Toney wins a throw from Sarr.
Canos with a foul on Loftus-Cheek. It gives Chelsea the chance to establish their first period of possession. Nice pass into midfield from Christensen allows Kante to turn but Azpilicueta’s touch gets away from him.
Really good driving run from Loftus-Cheek, gliding past two Brentford players, and it almost dropped for Werner in the box. Really good play from the midfielder.
Chelsea get us going in front of a raucous home crowd. Straight away Mendy has to rush out of his goal and clear under pressure from Toney.
Tuchel on his midfield selection
If N’Golo is fit to start, why should he be on the bench, and we go for Ruben in the middle because in the centre of midfield we need also height and physicality against the long balls, and to fight for the second balls.
Hey Jude ringing around Brentford’s new home
They would jump above Everton and Man Utd with a win but they have a tough task in front of them.
Frank on Chelsea’s inexperienced defence
I‘m pretty sure Lukaku earns more than our entire first XI, so I think they have enough quality.
The tactical battle
Looks like Tuchel has tried to match up Brentford’s system by starting Werner and Lukaku up front as strikers. Brentford will surely be licking their lips to get at the back three of Chalobah, Christensen and Sarr, with Sarr making his first Premier League appearance. A rare chance for Loftus-Cheek next to Kovacic and Kante.
Can Brentford pull off another upset?
Brentford have already sent soft-centred Arsenal packing from the Community Stadium, went punch for punch with Liverpool in a 3-3 draw and now they face Chelsea in a league west London derby for the first time since 1947.
Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo will be buoyed by the fact Chelsea are likely to be without Antonio Rudiger and Thiago Silva at the back due to fitness concerns. In better news for Thomas Tuchel, Reece James and N’Golo Kante are expected to be back from injury.
Brentford have a highly commendable 12 points from their first seven games, comfortably the best of the three promoted sides. Thomas Frank’s team have not given much away – only Liverpool, Chelsea, Brighton and Manchester City have conceded fewer shots on target. They have not achieved that by sitting deep and barricading their penalty box though. Brentford pick their moments to press high, play a mix of long and short passes out from the back and look to maximise set-pieces with clever routines.
Chelsea were a bit off colour in the four games between September and October international breaks, but still started the weekend top of the league. Mason Mount is back in the team, and Tuchel will hope that helps them find their attacking fluency again.
Tuchel believes football’s top talents simply play too many matches, but also revealed elite managers feel as though they can have little sway in effecting any changes.
“We knew beforehand when Thiago would come back and when he would travel, so it’s nothing new,” said Tuchel.
“He will be back, this afternoon, hopefully, safe, Thiago from this match in Brazil.
“So we had our talk today about Brentford, we had our tactical training today, and he missed all that.
“He played 90 minutes, he has 12 hours of travelling, so that’s the answer maybe about his availability – he is not.
“I’ve got used to a lot of things in national breaks, this is how it is nowadays.
“Are we happy about it, all the coaches with the amount of games our players play for their countries? No, we are not. Does anybody ask us if we want to change anything? Also, no. So it’s nothing new.”
Full team news on the way shortly.